Luke the Drifter, a comeuppance and Tom Robbins calls it quits…

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Art is subjective and the first subject is the soul of the artist.

I recently watched I Saw The Light, a Hank Williams biopic starring Loki and the Red Witch.  Old Hank was a lyrical genius with more than his share of inspiration and damnation.  He put it out there and out there and still it wasn’t enough to allow him the thing all artists crave.

Connection.

Connection with others.  Connection with the world at large.  Connection with an understanding of their own psyche.  When filled with the emptiness of lonesome, any connection will do; alcohol, drugs, sex, food, money, power, fame, failure.  Connection.

I spent time in Alabama this week.  Hank’s home state.  I had connection on the brain when I pulled in Sunday night and kept it there all week.

He wrote from the heart.  Quickly, without much editing and without much regret.  His alter ego, Luke The Drifter, carried the weight of his more soul-searching work, but Hank was the canvas of Luke’s art.  He was a tormented soul yearning to break out and be free.

Let’s regroup….

I pulled into Alabama thinking of Hank and my writing and the unspoken reality that connecting with others has never been easy for me.  Does it look easy?  Sure.  I learned to use humor years ago to impress, deflect, entertain, flirt and distract as I saw fit.  A manipulative skill but one that leaves them laughing and wanting more…

My own art is suffering from a plague of mediocrity that only I will openly admit.  Others won’t for fear of hurting my feelings or disrupting a friendship etc.  Craig S. stands out on this topic for his brutal honesty.  But, as a Man dealing in reality, he is as honest with Me about Me as he is about Himself.  This makes his criticisms constructive, reasonable and easy to swallow.

I started this years ago because I had this Tom Robbins inspired notion of writing 500 words per day, no matter what.  Broadcasting to the world seemed to satisfy two criteria:  Engage an audience, receive feedback.

Both failed.

So now is the time to rethink this entire pile and focus on turning mediocrity into something that is not mediocrity.

I hit Alabama by reaching out to writer friends about editors/publishers and the writing community at large.  I never really considered myself a writing group type of guy.  I don’t even know what genre is fitting for my writing.  I just write the words in my head and let them go.  Full disclosure:  I’ve never edited any story on this page.  100% of what is presented was written directly into the blog and only after the fact was it saved.  Including the Romeos stories.

You deserve better.

I deserve better.

My characters deserve better.

My soul deserves better.

To that end, no more stories will appear here.  I’m engaging an editor and moving in the direction of publication and becoming a serious, if underrated, underpaid and unknown, writer.

My last story, Purpose, was written in the San Antonio airport after reading three pages of Notes from the Underground.  What if the people we think of as having Special Needs were able to think clearly, perhaps more clearly than us, and were using our ignorance and compassion to fulfill their goals.  Be they good, evil or indifferent.

++++++++++++++++++++

Back to ranting then.

I could rant for hours about a limitless number of topics.  The desire to express one’s self, so necessary for artist, makes me a boorish snob at dinner parties, a know-it-all ass successful in self-aggrandizement others can only envy.  I’m fun to drink with, tough to get close to and unforgettable for reasons I forget.  I admire Bukowski because he shuns admiration and love Kerouac because he needs it.  Palaniuk is my favorite modern writer.  His writing, satire, wit and intelligence is unrivaled in this Stephanie Myers world.

I often think I should disappear to a remote island.  Indulge in my alcoholic dreams, consume Rum and write a memoir no one will read.  But the truth is I would end up sunburned, arrested and my memoir would consist of two paragraphs about railroads, midgets and the smell of Schlitz.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Trump and Hillary are symptoms of the same disease.  We’ve spent decades accepting the lesser of two evils.  Now we have nothing but evil to choose from and, ye gods, we double-down on this fact.

We have to take sides.  If you’re Liberal, you’re a Libtard.  If you’re Conservative, you’re a KKKonservative.  If you’re pro-Black, you’re anti-White.  If you’re pro-Cop, you’re anti-Black.  If you’re pro-White, you’re the KKK.  The Hispanics show up in here somewhere but seem to have the sense to recuse themselves for the most part.  You’re either pro-Gun or a Socialist.  You’re either a Socialist or bible thumping gay-hater stuck in an all-White past.  If you disagree with Me, you’re a Communist.  If I disagree with you, I’m a Fox News watching Zombie who should be mocked.  You’re either forever Rich or forever Poor.  Pick a side God-Damn you!  If you don’t repost that video about a Black kid getting killed, you’re a bigot and part of the problem.  If you don’t repost that video about a Cop being killed by a Black kid, then you’re not American.  You must fly Old Glory just above your Don’t Tread On Me Banner or you’re some sort of commie-fucker and probably love Obama.

We…that means YOU and I…encourage, support, promote, reblog, repost, share, LIKE, Retweet, Comment and otherwise ENDORSE the very DIVISION we lament…

We the people, have created a less perfect Union which divides us along superficial, political borders…

We ask our kids to pick sides and then wonder why our country is divided.  Being Conservative doesn’t make you anti-Gay anymore than being Liberal makes you anti-White.  Plug in any names/agendas/topics  you wish in that sentence and it makes just as little as sense as the original.

We’ve let our Politics decide our Principles instead of our Principles deciding our Politics.

I think most people view their own lives as a Conservative and the lives of their neighbors as a Liberal.  I know I do.  I don’t care what you do, at all.  Just don’t ask me to pay for it.  I’ll stay out of your bedroom and take my wallet when I leave.   The Ten Commandments at a courthouse don’t bother me because I don’t feel as if my government is forcing me into Christianity anymore than their Speed Limit sign tricks me into going 55…

I believe that most people are Libertarians.  They just don’t understand Libertarians-so they naturally are apprehensive-and the media/education system has convinced them it is some sort of no holds barred Anarchy.  The Sheep count themselves to sleep…

Think of it this way.  Fiscally conservative, socially liberal.  That sounds like most everyone I know…

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I’ve been reading Seneca, Letters from a Stoic.

Try it.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As always,

John.

 

 

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Chief Charles and the first Lesson Illegal.

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Van Halen's 1984

We grew up in a hushed little town with a speed trap running down the middle. Warped porches, sidewalks swallowed by grass, and boarded up stores lined the highway. Ghosts whispered of good old days no one remembered with integrity. We walked those streets hoping to see something, anything that might represent a change of pace. Early we learned carloads of pretty girls didn’t drive by in our bedrooms. There was little excitement in our Atari games passed level gazillion.
And no matter what we were told; nothing good came to those who waited.

Downtown was two blocks of not-so-much with Town Hall towards the east and a Funeral Parlor to the west. In one of the old buildings, a black man opened up an arcade filled with quarter games, pool tables, and a few of the town’s more flavorful street movers.

One of these street movers was Chief Charles. I never knew if it was his real name and never had the guts to ask. He looked to be Mexican with long straight black hair and bronze skin. His black shiny locks were tight against his head because of the red bandanna he always wore. He walked with a farm worker’s gait; a near limp from heavy lifting. His eyes, as brown as mud, centered a ring of constant redness. He smelled of sweat and smoke; store-bought & home-grown. Chief stood over six feet and probably hovered 165 on a scale. His smile came out rarely but crooked when Chief Charles bothered to take notice of us kids. Most of the time I saw him he was walking. Even as a kid I thought he looked like a man From a place but not going To a place.

At the arcade late one  summer afternoon, it was decided that we, two mid-teens with more gumption than intuition, wanted to get drunk. We walked down the alley towards 7-11 discussing our plans.
“Your mama home?”
“Naw,” I said. “She’s at a dance or something.”
“We can go there?”
“Sure. I got that Van Halen tape.” I said.
“Cool. What should we get? I hate wine coolers.”
“I don’t know. Beer is beer.”
“Right. How much money you got?”
I checked my pockets, using the sun’s fading light to count.
“About six.”
“I got ten. That’s enough.”
“Who we gonna get to buy it?”
“There’s Chief Charles over there.”

Chief was sitting behind the 7-11. His eyes were closing like dusk on a long day. My friend yelled.

Old Swill.

“Hey man! Yeah.” We approached the nodding Chief.
“It’s me. Timmy. What’s happening?”
Chief looked up.
“Hey.”
“Would you buy us some beer?”
“What you two gonna do with it?” Chief asked. His smile seemed friendly but I felt some irritation in his voice.
“Gonna get drunk over at Johnny’s house and listen to the new Van Halen tape.”
“Party animals. Big time.”
“Well,” Timmy said, “We might call some girls over…never know.” With this he tapped my shoulder. Maybe he never knew, but I did. It was gonna be us and Van Halen. All night. But the excitement was there. The boundless belief in the impossible so ingrained in youth floated around Timmy and I.
“Sure. I guess.”
“Cool. Look, we got 16 bucks.” Timmy handed over our money.
“What do you want?”
“A six-pack.” I said. Chief Charles cut his eyes at me.
“A six-pack?” Timmy said loudly. “I could drink a case or two by myself.”
Chief smiled wide.
“You two got enough for a 12 pack of something cheap. Then I get the change for whatever I want.”
Suddenly I wanted to run away. As if I smelled a firecracker that was about to go off.
“Good deal.” Timmy said. “We’re gonna walk over to Perk’s.  When you come out we’ll meet right here.”
Chief nodded his agreement.

We walked to the parking lot of the store next door. I had worked there before, bagging beer, scrubbing the floor, killing the minnows in the bait tank…the last bit taught me what ‘fired’ meant.

“Which album is it?” Timmy asked.
“You think we’re gonna get in trouble?” I said.
“For what? If somebody says something to us we’ll act like we don’t know Chief. Everything’s cool man.”

I was explaining why I liked the song “I’ll Wait” when we saw blue lights pull into the 7-11 parking lot. We ran behind the dumpster and peeked around the corner. Two cops went into the 7-11, leaving their car running and the lights advertising trouble for all to see. They came out minutes later with Chief Charles in tow. He glanced over at the dumpster behind Perk’s just in time to see the dust boiling up behind our sprinting feet.

We ran back to Timmy’s house and realized we’d probably be fingered quick and that sitting there like dumb ducks was bad. We left out of the back of his house and looked around. What we expected to see, I’m not sure.

Ninjas have no boundaries.

Cops.
FBI Agents.
Ninjas.
Who knows?
We took off through the alley. We ran for two more blocks before stopping. The night was quiet except for our breathing and the sound of trains connecting in the distance.
“Shit” Timmy said.
“Double shit.” I said. “You think he’s gonna tell ’em our names?”
“He don’t know our names.”
“He knows yours and you said mine.”
“How many damn Johnnys you think there are in Crewe?”
“Like…two.”
“Shit”
“Double shit”

We walked towards my Grandma’s house. Not for any familiar protection but because she lived about as far from downtown as one could get. Plus, we both knew the woods around her house from our childhood war games. If we had to duck out in the woods, it’d be a while before anyone would find us.

We devised all sorts of lies in case the cops stopped us.
“He pulled a knife on us.”
“He said we had to give him money for beer or he’d kill our families.”
“I just wanted a comic book, officer.”
Timmy laughed.
“A comic book?”
“GI Combat.”
“Oh, that’s better. Dumbass.”
“This was your idea man.”

We argued a bit about whose idea was what and when. Then we moved on to something else. Just a rambling conversation as we walked through the humid night wondering what might happen. Somewhere we changed our minds about my Grandma’s neighborhood and headed back to downtown. On the way the same two cops passed us, honked and waved. Nothing.

The arcade was closing by the time we arrived.
Aubrey, the man who owned it smiled.
“You two give Chief money to buy beer?”
We froze.
“What?” Timmy said.
“Cops came by and said they picked up Chief up at 7-11 for a failure to appear. He was yelling about them using two kids to trap him. Said two white kids set him up to get arrested.”
I felt a swarm of bees in my stomach. Timmy laughed nervously.
“It won’t us.”
“Johnny, you still got that birthday money on you?” Aubrey asked.
“No.”
Aubrey smiled. “Chief will be out tomorrow probably. I’ll tell him you two were looking for your money back.”
“Don’t tell him that!” I blurted.
“Just let it go Aubrey.” Timmy said.
Aubrey laughed and then spoke.
“Never get a criminal to help you break the law.”

Boardwalk Furries…

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No, I'm not kidding.

For reasons not connected to this telling, we were standing on the boardwalk in November, with our bare feet wet. The family plus Floyd were talking, while Alex, wrapped as a pearl in a shell of blankets, slept. Waves crashed as a daylight moon swelled the Atlantic. We rinsed the sand off our feet and began to discuss dinner plans. Two people walked by dressed in Wolf Costumes. We took notice, and then looked further up the boardwalk from whence the wolves arrived.

The Furries were walking seven abreast. Wolves, dogs, squirrels, cats, and something with the head of an Egyptian Anubis waved at gawkers and pointers. The Anubis wore a long black outfit reminiscent of a Death Star commander. The rest were dressed in the fuzzy attire of their preferred character. The girls were stunned…then delighted. All three insisted on having a picture taken with the Furry crowd.

The girls thought they were pretty cool...fur real.

Furries, contrary to popular belief (mine included) aren’t necessarily a bunch of freaks trolling for a new place to “yiff”. The concept began back in the 1980s as Comic Conventions competed for geek bucks against Trek Conventions. Mostly, these folks identify with their chosen “animal” and purchase or make a costume to reflect their cartoonish identity. Maybe they find it interesting, or wish they were as strong, cunning, or fast. The Furry’s head is usually smiling, and except for the Egyptian Death Star guy, all of our Furry friends seemed pleasant enough.

Misconceptions abound about Furries. Admittedly, I had reservations. My only exposure to this culture was from TV shows wherein costumed clad adults would yiff the hell out of each other. Standing on the boardwalk as the girls posed I had the feeling I was watching a GLEE mashup of Monster Mash and I Touch Myself. When the Event Organizer, a guy in ‘civilian’ attire who goes by Casey Red Fox, handed my oldest daughter a business card, my neck turned Red. I took the card from her as they moved on and shoved it in my pocket.

Since then I’ve read some more about the Furries. I’ve looked into it because I felt protective over my kids. Also, I dislike casting my ignorance around as if it were strength.

Furries are outcasts who use their love of cartoons, creativity, and inherent oddness to form groups, hang out, and generally find a connection to other people. Their costumes, in some ways, are like shields against the isolation they may have experienced over the years. Tammy pointed out that it is also a way of receiving some fame. When I thought back on our kids and their reactions I saw this was true. To our kids, the Furries weren’t a bunch of geeks, weirdos, or sexual deviants…they were just people dressed up in smiling furry costumes willing to take a picture. They made our trip more interesting.

There probably is something to the “bestiality in disguise” aspect. Dressing up like a Lion so you can screw other people dressed up like Lions has to signify some level of attraction to Lions…? Yes?  BUT, my kids aren’t Lions…so…whatever…

As I looked around the internet for some Furry photos to share, I realized we all share in some of this seeming Furry insanity. Dressing up like a Cat and walking down the Boardwalk is really no more odd than dressing up like a Business person and walking into work. The business clothes are more accepted, but the idea is the same. Dress up like a character, behave a certain way, and you receive a reward. A reward that allows you to feel important, needed, richer, connected, powerful, and meaningful or whatever…

A costume is a costume…
But what kid goes nuts over a guy in suit hugging his laptop?

Everything I needed to know I learned from Dead Frogs.

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It was this time last year when I took account of my life and found some things lacking. About twenty years and 150 pounds ago, I had an inkling of how my life would go. I wanted to wake up in distant lands, see the known & hidden places of the world, and somehow make a mark that lasted more than my expected life cycle. Little did I realize that every 18 year-old full of piss & vinegar has such grandiose notions and few really make it. But off you go anyway…You see some sites, visit some places, meet some people, and then wake up on a 9-5 commute before you settle your hangover. As Frost said, way leads to way…

Back to last year.
I realized that of all the things I’d wanted to do, one was still with me after 20+ years like a rash without ointment. Writing. I sat down last year and wrote this sentence on my computer screen.

John Duffy, Writer.

Yeah, I was drunk…but I got the message buried in the bottle. If I was going to be a writer then it was time to make me a writer. You can’t make me one, neither can a publisher, agent, critic, reader, or a thousand plastic compliments. I have to make me one.

Over the past year I’ve picked up a few lessons that I thought worth sharing.

1.) Writing is tedious difficult work. Hemingway once quipped, “Write drunk; edit sober.” The former is easy, the latter…not so much. Taking a critical eye to your work is as important as letting your critical eye sleep while you bang out a rough draft.

2.) Writing is predominantly an inside job. The TV show “Castle” offers a glamorous spin on writing that gives a schmo the impression that a laptop and good hair a Writer do make. I tried what I call the “Latte Literati” gig of sitting in a coffee house and playing Writer for the world to see. Trouble was, I couldn’t see it, even if all the caffeine junkies could… Writing is tough enough for me without an audience. Hell, the reason I can fly through this blog most of the time is because I have trouble believing the “Ego Counter”.

3.) Inspiration can’t be found, it must arrive of its own accord. I go places and work hard at keeping my eyes & ears open. It’s tight to pay attention to the world around you when you sometimes feel the world inside you is a dumpster fire. But I try. Sometimes inspiration arrives. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve learned to have faith that it will always show up…when it wants to.

4.) Reading is fundamental to Writing. I glance over my blog and other writings and notice a stagnation buried within. Thinking back to when I wrote whatever piece is stagnated I realize that at that time, I wasn’t reading much and I wasn’t “moving around” much. Reading is a simple way to see the world. If you can’t see the world, who cares what you have to say about it…?

5.) Thorns have their place. I appreciate the compliments people feed me, but after that, I enjoy a cup of strong critique to complete the meal. Only I can make me a Writer, but others can help make me a better writer.

6.) Grammar matters.

7.) Keep the story moving with action & words. Perhaps I feel that way because I’m too lazy to wrestle adjectives or hold down an adverb for three seconds. I don’t know. Show, don’t tell…

8.) I need to meet more Writers. Networking seems incredibly important. I need to work on my “networking” skills more.

9.) A Writer will write. Whether it’s a comedy skit, jokes, a restaurant review, or a newsletter for work; a Writer writes. If I’m not actively pursuing “Writing Gigs” then I’m not living a Writer’s life. For me, it is that simple.

10.) This may seem harsh, and contradictory to #8, but a Writer has to clear the clutter from their mind, their desk, and their life. That last one is the toughest.

11.) I’m not the Story. When I enlisted the assistance of a pro editor I was stoked. I felt as if I were doing the hard work…shelling out money, staying up late to do rewrites, discussing the why, when, & what of my work. Then I got my first edits back. Cut this, slash that, add here, delete this, rework this piece, why? Why? WHy? WHY?….I remember sitting in that office listening to my stories being dissected and feeling a sudden kinship with dead frogs found in the high schools of America. I had to remind myself, “I’m not the story, I’m not the story, I’m not the story…”

12.) Writing is tedious difficult work. I know I’m repeating #1…but if you knew how many times I rewrote #11, you’d understand.

13.) Biggest thing I learned this year: John Duffy, Writer. I like it.

-John.

Half-drunks, Whole Peppers, and my cockeyed friend…

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Either by personal decree, divine intervention, or dumbass luck this has been an eventful year. Finished college, had a son, turned 40, starting writing seriously, starting living less seriously, and recently I began an enjoyable relationship with a certain radio program.

You can tune in on Saturday nights to The Gods of the Bobbleheads and hear Richmond’s newest music, interviews, in-studio performances, and assorted funny bits written by Daniel Anderson/John Massey and some guy called Baby Huey. When the Gods laugh loud enough, you can hear skits I’ve written as well.

Check them out here.

I also started this blog which has been a strange experience in itself. You never know WHO reads it or what they think. Often, when I move around Nottoway, I see people stop and stare at me. I don’t know if it’s the hole in my fishnet hose or the fact they’ve read this blog.
So be it.

Next year, I’m doing the Polar Plunge. If you look to the right of your screen you’ll see a link. I’m too damn lazy to keep putting links & pics on this page. Gets old, you know?

Well, here’s another pepper for the kabob of my life. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Here’s another damn link that will take you to NaNoWriMo’s site.

The idea is simple. You attempt to write 50,000 words during the 30 days of a specific month. I’ll be doing it during November. It doesn’t have to be a good, earth shattering novel. In fact, it seems you can write pretty much whatever you want provided it’s not filled with so much Sex that even the Catholic church would take notice. That part doesn’t bother me. I don’t write “Sex” stuff much. It always seems your mind would wonder when you do.
Makes me think that smut writers probably fall into to two categories: 1.) Bored with sexual thoughts. 2.) Carpal Tunnel

So, starting November 1 I will try to write 50,000 words based loosely on an idea I’ve smacked around my head for two years now.
Fire up the grill boys…Duffy’s ready for Kabobs…

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

If you tell someone you’re cutting back on Red Meat they’ll freak out about your “Protein!… Duffy, where you getting your protein eating that Baked Tater!?!” But when you order a Big Mac no one asks you about getting enough Vitamin C…?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

A friend recently cut his eyelid off with a box cutter. The doctors, in trying to find pliable skin, grafted a bit of his penis flesh to refashion an eyelid. Everyone keeps calling him Cockeyed…

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

We went to a bar recently in Blackstone. There was no DJ, no ongoing music. Just the rise and fall of half-drunks talking football, telling jokes, and remembering some forgotten tales. This old man at the far end starts to belt out Temptations tunes and Bob Seger hits. He kept his eyes closed. A smile would grace his wrinkles on certain verses.
I don’t want to be an old man before I’m that brave. Or crazy. Or funny. Or interesting.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Inspiration is where you look.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>

-John.

Accept the Fringe.

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I’m sitting there Wal-Mart checking the cheap-ass prices and wondering why they don’t carry Old Milwaukee in six packs so the non-drunk rednecks have something to drink. I was also thinking of The Doors because writing was on the back burner and what is writing without Brother Jim et al telling you its O-fucking-K to be a little nuts sometimes, when the mother of an old dead friend pops up next to me like a guilt trip with no ticket.

She says, “I want a copy of the poem you wrote about Harmon. Send it to Gary.”

Now let’s be honest here for a moment. I can’t tell you fine folks about Harmon, or Gary, or Betty, or the fishing trips, or the jokes, or the memories without crying in my Pabst like a two-year old. Harmon is off-limits. But there I was, in Wal-Mart (as sterile an environment as any operating room) and being reminded that a tad bit over a year ago one of my oldest, most loved friends was killed and I-in my rampage of ambitious bullshit and comfortable insecurities-never sent her my thoughts.

Let’s get down to some ugly monkey balls about this whole “Writing” thing if we can Pedro.
I put it in quotes because so many of us (capital US) consider “Writing” a sort of neo-religion that we assume there is some mystical language to solving its mystical power.
I call Bullshit so loud a headstone falls over…

You don’t have to be the best writer. Or published. Or edited. Or polished. Or worthy of your “fav” writer’s attention without a restraining order…BUT to someone, somewhere, at some point…YOU are the greatest writer alive.

You are it. The Hemingway of their memories. The Kerouac of their dreams. The Irving of their sorrow. YOU ARE FUCKING IT…

Bright as Time Square. Hot as a Forest Fire. YOU are it. You have the feelings, the emotions, the words, the ability,the talent, the time, the willingness to express whatever they feel.

Call it Obligation.

Call it Guilt.

Call it Love.

It is You and you, my virtual friends, are It.

You are the best writer they know because no one else is willing to sit down and write something while crying a little…while dying a little…while wondering “WHY ME?” so loud God grabs his (or hers) ear plugs.

>>>>>>>>>>

I read my poem about Harmon.
I read my post about Harmon.
I cried about Harmon while hiding in a dark kitchen like a rat.

By the time Gary opens his Facebook, Brother Jim will be silent, and the Pabst will all be gone.
My talk will be about a newborn Son, my potential house, and other realities.
But my mind will remember that I’m the best writer others know simply because I’m willing to cast it all out and let them reel it in…my tears will remember Harmon and his Mother’s request in the middle of Wal-Mart.

And when I have the time…
I’ll sit down, again, to write.

Because that is who I am.
Like it.
Lump it.
Fuck it.

It is all there is…

So be it…

That’s what we do. That’s who YOU are.

Accept the Fringe.

-John.